The Ramen Revolution


First of all, you have to forget about Wagamama. Not that their bowls of noodles weren’t innovative, even excellent, in their own way when the restaurants launched back in the mists of time, under the stewardship of Alan Yau (whose own return to the field of ramen seems an inevitability at some point.) But now, compared to the joys of what else has been reaching our streets over the past couple of years, their offerings seem as flat and unimaginative as every other chain restaurant. Instead, we have to bow down in the face of the ramen gods, and supplicate ourselves to thick, delectable bowls of tonkotsu noodle soup. Ideally, the perfect ramen should have a thick, near-glutinous stock made out of slow-cooked pork bones, into which noodles, eggs, slices of pork and other delights including bean sprouts and seaweed should be added. It should be filling and delectable, but not too overwhelming. Time to trawl London’s finest to see which ones come up trumps, and which ones (if any) disappoint.


Situated in a nondescript side street off Tottenham Court Road, and opposite the far glitzier Ippudo (which has attracted some mixed coverage due to the ‘enthusiasm’ of the welcome guests receive), Kanada-Ya is probably serving the best ramen in London at the moment. Don’t worry that the menu is comparatively sparse on side dishes or starters, with onigri as the only real accompaniment; the chasiu men, with 18 hour pork broth, wood ear fungus and spring onion is the sort of thing that would make vegetarians weep into their lentil salad by night, and if you add some black garlic sauce and a hanjuku egg to the equation, you’re going to be concocting the sort of dish that will give you super powers. The most expensive ramen we tried – over £15 if you add a couple of extra toppings – but also the most purely satisfying.


United Ramen

Islington might seem a slightly odd place to open a ramen restaurant, but United, which attracted a good deal of publicity for some of its more outré dishes (roast beef and Yorkshire pudding ramen at weekends), proves a worthy addition to the bars and restaurants of Upper Street. The ramen uses a broth made of chicken bone stock, rather than pork stock, making it lighter, albeit without the depth of flavour, and there’s a well-conceived list of sides and desserts, including some lovely mochi. The most inexpensive of the places that we visited, and decent value – you could have a ramen, side and drink and still have change from £20.

Shoryu Soho

The Shoryu group of ramen restaurants have impressed ever since they first arrived in 2012, and now with 3 outlets, plus a takeaway spot in Soho (and another to open next year), they know exactly what they’re doing and do it very well. Tonkotsu hatteri ramen is the full-fat, bad for you version, but utterly delicious as well (and something of a snip at £12), and the USP here are the hirata buns, which, at £4.50 each, are something of an expensive treat, but are also fairly unmissable. As with many of the other spots reviewed, comfort isn’t exactly at a premium, but the warming and friendly atmosphere makes for a rewarding meal.

Bone Daddies

Superchef Ross Shonhan’s Soho jaunt, complete with rock ‘n’ roll music blaring out of the speakers, became one of the trendiest places in town when it opened in 2012, attracting as many plaudits for its grungy atmosphere as its delectable ramen and sides. Its latest incarnation is in the first floor of Whole Foods in Kensington, and sadly the atmosphere is lacking; nothing to do with the restaurant, but there’s something unavoidably sterile about a big chain store that even the most hardy of concessions can’t overcome. Thank God, then, for the food, that might be even better than its big brother; IP Tonkotsu is the stuff of (naughty) dreams, an opening side of chicken wings is spicy and gooey in equal quantity and an import from Shonhan’s other establishment, chilli pork tiger buns, are something rather special. And, unlike Soho, you should be able to get a seat without queuing for hours.


So there we have it. Ramen, ramen and more ramen for your delectation – and with restaurants as good (and, crucially, affordable) as these, there seems no likelihood of 2014’s most enjoyable food trend slackening this year. All hail the noodle kings and queens!

Kanada-Ya, 64 St Giles High St, WC2

United Ramen, 105-106 Upper St, N1

Shoryu Soho, 3 Denman St, W1

Bone Daddies Kensington, Whole Foods Market, 63-97 Kensington High Street, W8 Website